Avian Flu Outbreak - Information
If you do not know, there is currently an outbreak of Avian Flu happening in several countries, including the United States. Infections in New York, Michigan, Delaware, Maine, North Carolina, Florida and Kentucky have been reported. It is safe to assume the entire East Coast and Midwest is at risk.
Particularly troubling, the strain is the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) variant which can more easily be transmitted in birds. Currently the risk to humans or pets is low.
At risk are home and commercial flocks of chickens, ducks, turkeys and other food birds. Expect that large scale cullings and wild bird kills will happen, and prepare your home flocks. Since the 2015 outbreak, the US Department of Agriculture has had a policy of very aggressive response to instances of this disease. You may have little warning of them showing up at your door, especially if it makes the news in your area. The USDA agents will not listen to your pleas that they are your pets or are like family.
Symptoms In Chickens and Ducks
Your best defense is what you should be doing regularly, checking your animals each day for out of the ordinary behavior. Know your flock. Note any changes in appearance, behavior or eating habits.
1) Eating Less or Lack of Energy.
2) Coughing, Sneezing or Nasal Discharge.
3) Reduced Egg Production or Abnormal Eggs.
4) Swelling or Purple Discoloration Around The Face.
6) Lack of Coordination, Muscle Tremors, Twisting Of The Head and Neck, Inability To Move.
7) Fever over 100.4F or 38C
Pictures of bird symptoms here: Photo Gallery
Many of these symptoms are indicative of other diseases, not just Avian Flu. The best indicator is a blood test, which may be out of reach for backyard flock management. You may have to cull preemptively to protect yourself.
Preventing Your Flock From Getting The Flu
Avian Flu will be in your animals before you know it. Your best defense is observation.
Your main way to keep your flock from getting Avian Flu is preventing them from interacting with wild birds. Wild birds can be infected and show no symptoms. Remove any bird feeders you have in your garden. Do not allow wild birds to feed with your animals.
The pathogens are in their poop, though nasal droppings and saliva also carry it. The virus will live on surfaces too. Preventing your birds from coming in contact with it is critical. Bring them inside if you can and cover their run so that wild birds can not light on the fencing and have their droppings land inside the run. Cleaning methods we discussed with COVID during the pandemic work with this as well. They are both types of respiratory influenza.
Secondarily, be careful as you should be doing anyway, when you introduce new birds to your flock. Know who you are getting animals from. A good deal may just be a person disposing of birds before they have to take a loss themselves.
Develop quarantine and cleaning procedures for when you visit and care for your animals. Wear a disposable mask and clean or throw it out after each using. Have rubber boots you wear and disinfect after each visit. A large plastic container with water and bleach that you can step into and leave your boots in is best. Rubber gloves or disposable surgical gloves are also important. When cleaning their coops or runs, consider removing your clothing afterwards for cleaning, and taking a shower as well.
Dispose of any dead birds, wild ones especially, as if they were hazardous material. Double plastic bag and complete clean up afterward.
USDA "Defend the Flock Program" home page
What To Do If Your Flock Gets The Flu?
There is no current treatment for Avian Flu.
For larger operations, if you suspect that your animals have become sick, you should contact your veterinarian or local extension official. They can arrange testing. Note that in cases of large outbreaks and you having a small backyard flock, they may not have the time or resources and just order their culling. Your area will be designated a quarantine zone, and new birds will not be allowed in until the zone is declared free of infections. Your poultry house and runs must be disinfected and cleared.
For backyard flocks the government may just take you on your word. That means you'll need to take the precautions you deem necessary. Birds may still be available from underground dealers though you run the risk of getting infected birds yet again.
Generally the USDA pays 80% of the market value of your birds. Which isn't much. You may have the chance to claim larger compensation if you can document your birds are rare breeds or heritage types. Having the paperwork is key. Expect though that the government is going to make you jump through hoops to get anything out of them.
Background and Information
A good general news report from Des Moines, Iowa
Johnson City Press article
Information on HPAI
USDA HPAI page
More Info Will Be Posted As I Get It